Review: Primal Scream - Concert in the Gardens, Edinburgh

JUST how rock ‘n’ roll is it to headline one of the most commercial events on Scotland’s concert-going calendar? Here was our chance to find out, as self-styled malcontent subversives Primal Scream collided with the festival of whisky-warmed seasonal merriment that is Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

Although this wasn’t billed as the full, apocalyptic Scream live show, rather the crowd-pleasing rerun of their seminal 1991 breakthrough album Screamadelica, which went down so well at T in the Park in July.

In keeping with a Hogmanay celebration which this year seemed intent on offering a credible selection of some of the year’s most prominent artists as well as a bunch of bands who would be guaranteed to get crowds dancing, the Scream were offered quality support on the Ross Bandstand stage. They were preceded by Glasgow’s own Sons & Daughters and Crouch End’s Bombay Bicycle Club, both responsible for strong-showing albums of 2011 in Mirror Mirror and A Different Kind of Fix respectively.

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For Primal Scream, though, the other story of the year alongside their 20-years-on return to Screamadelica was the departure of bass player Mani, returning to his original home in the Stone Roses for next year’s reunion dates. This show, straddling the old year and the new with a 15-minute break for the bells, would be his last with singer Bobby Gillespie and the rest of the band, and there was the tangible sense of an ending and a new beginning to their set as a result.

Playing a show whose encore was longer than its first part, though, meant there were obvious timing issues related to playing an album of over an hour’s length. As a result the whole of Screamadelica didn’t actually appear here, rather we were treated some of the album’s highlights coupled with the best bits of the band’s career as a whole. The opening gospel explosion of Movin’ On Up fits into both categories, while the following Slip Inside This House and Don’t Fight It, Feel It are two of the album’s more groove-laden tracks, the former of the two also allowing the Glaswegian Gillespie to tentatively try out some rabble-rousing banter which might be safe for impartial, all-ages viewers. His “are youse ready to slip inside this castle?” sadly numbered among his less inspiring pronouncements.

A teary-eyed reading of country-sad ballad Damaged followed, before the frantic Accelerator and Shoot Speed Kill Light from 2000’s XTRMNTR album finished off the pre-bells set. Come ten past midnight, and backstage toasts had obviously been downed during the firework display. “Happy new year, you mother****ers,” declared an emboldened Gillespie, his suit jacket peeled off to reveal a sleek red shirt hanging from his wiry frame, as the ever-euphoric Loaded moved into the heart-swelling extended version of Come Together, Gillespie’s “agitate, agitate, organise” choral ad-lib being a somewhat vanilla slice of political subversion next to the neoliberal-baiting electronic crunch of Swastika Eyes.

Yet this somehow didn’t seem like the occasion to go making statements, or to go trying to deliver proof of authenticity. They came here to have a good time, they came here to have a party, and in the closing trio of classic rockers Country Girl, Jailbird and Rocks, they certainly found it.

RATING: ****